IMPERIALISM AND COLONIALISM IN AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND NEW GUINEA
(1) Establishment of the British Colony
- A proposal that Britain found a colony of banished convicts in the South Sea to enable a small farmer town to exploit the riches of those regions, had been put forward in 1766 by John Callander.
- In 1770, James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain. Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent scientist who had accompanied Lieutenant James Cook on his 1770 voyage, recommended Botany Bay as a suitable site.
- Following the loss of the American Colonies after the American Revolutionary War 1775–1783, Great Britain needed to find alternative land for a new British colony. Australia was chosen for settlement, and colonisation began in 1788. The British Government sent a fleet of ships, the “First Fleet”, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, to establish a new penal colony (a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general populace by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory) in New South Wales. Phillip named the settlement after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend.
- A camp was set up and the flag raised at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, on 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia’s national day, Australia Day.
- On 24 January 1788 a French expedition of two ships led by Admiral Jean-François de La Pérouse had arrived off Botany Bay.Though amicably received, the French expedition was a troublesome matter for the British, as it showed the interest of France in the new land.
- On 10 March the French expedition, having taken on water and wood, left Botany Bay, never to be seen again.
- Rather than resorting to the use of slavery to build the infrastructure for the new colony, convict labour was used as a cheap and economically viable alternative.
- The colonisation of Australia was driven by the need to address overcrowding in the British prison system; however, it was simply not economically viable to transport prisoners half way around the world for this reason alone. Many convicts were either skilled tradesmen or farmers who had been convicted for trivial crimes and were sentenced to seven years, the time required to set up the infrastructure for the new colony. Convicts were often given pardons prior to or on completion of their sentences and were allocated parcels of land to farm.
- The first settlement led to the foundation of Sydney, the establishment of farming, industry and commerce; and the exploration and settlement of other regions.
- Governor Phillip was vested with complete authority over the inhabitants of the colony. Enlightened for his Age, Phillip’s personal intent was to establish harmonious relations with local Aboriginal people and try to reform as well as discipline the convicts of the colony. Early efforts at agriculture were fraught and supplies from overseas were few and far between. Many new arrivals were also sick or unfit for work and the conditions of healthy convicts only deteriorated with hard labour and poor sustenance in the settlement. The food situation reached crisis point in 1790. From 1791 however, the more regular arrival of ships and the beginnings of trade lessened the feeling of isolation and improved supplies.
- In 1792, two French ships anchored in a harbour near Tasmania’s southernmost point they called Recherche Bay.
- This was at a time when Britain and France were trying to be the first to discover and colonise Australia. The expedition carried scientists and cartographers, gardeners, artists and hydrographers who, variously, planted, identified, mapped, marked, recorded and documented the environment and the people of the new lands that they encountered.
- A British settlement was established in Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania, in 1803 and it became a separate colony in 1825.
- 1825: Founding of Brisbane
- The Swan River Settlement (as Western Australia was originally known), centred on Perth, was founded in 1829. The colony suffered from a long-term shortage of labour, and by 1850 local capitalists had succeeded in persuading London to send convicts. Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth, became the colony’s convict settlement in 1838 and was used for local colonial offenders.
- Separate colonies were carved from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, New Zealand in 1841, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1911 when it was excised from South Australia.
- South Australia was founded as a “free province”—it was never a penal colony.Victoria and Western Australia were also founded “free”, but later accepted transported convicts.
- A campaign by the settlers of New South Wales led to the end of convict transportation to that colony; the last convict ship arrived in 1848.
- 1 January 1901 – the Federation of Australian States to form the Commonwealth of Australia.
- 1911 – The Australian Capital Territory is established.
(2) Convicts and free settlers:
- One in three convicts transported after 1798 was Irish, about a fifth of whom were transported in connection with the political and agrarian disturbances common in Ireland at the time. While the settlers were reasonably well-equipped, little consideration had been given to the skills required to make the colony self-supporting – few of the first wave convicts had farming or trade experience. In 1789 former convict James Ruse produced the first successful wheat harvest in New South Wales. He repeated this success in 1790 as there was a pressing need for food production in the colony. Female convicts were usually assigned as domestic servants to the free settlers, many being forced into prostitution.
- Convict discipline was harsh, convicts who would not work or who disobeyed orders were punished by flogging, being put in stricter confinement
- The conditions they had come out under were that they should be provided with a free passage, be furnished with agricultural tools and implements by the Government, have two years’ provisions, and have grants of land free of expense. Convicts were usually sentenced to seven or fourteen years’ penal servitude, or “for the term of their natural lives”.
- Sometimes there was rebellion of convicts or army also.
- In October 1795 George Bass and Matthew Flinders, accompanied by William Martin sailed the boat Tom Thumb out of Port Jackson to Botany Bay and explored the Georges River further upstream than had been done previously by the colonists. Their reports on their return led to the settlement of Banks’ Town. They discovered and explored Port Hacking. In 1798–99, Bass and Flinders set out in a sloop and circumnavigated Tasmania, thus proving it to be an island.
- Aboriginal guides and assistance in the European exploration of the colony were common and often vital to the success of missions. In 1801–02 Matthew Flinders in The Investigator lead the first circumnavigation of Australia. Aboard ship was the Aboriginal explorer Bungaree, of the Sydney district, who became the first person born on the Australian continent to circumnavigate the Australian continent.
- The indigenous population, estimated to have been between 750,000 and 1,000,000 at the time European settlement began, declined for 150 years following settlement, mainly due to infectious disease.A government policy of “assimilation” beginning with the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 resulted in the removal of many Aboriginal children from their families and communities—often referred to as the Stolen Generations—a practice which may also have contributed to the decline in the indigenous population.
- Aboriginal reactions to the sudden arrival of British settlers were varied, but often hostile when the presence of the colonisers led to competition over resources. European diseases decimated Aboriginal populations, and the occupation or destruction of lands and food resources led to starvation. By contrast with New Zealand, where the Treaty of Waitangi was seen to legitimise British settlement, no treaty was signed with Aborigines, who never authorised British colonisation.(The Treaty of Waitangi is a treaty first signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crownand various Māori chiefs from the North Island of New Zealand.The Treaty established a British Governor of New Zealand, recognised Māori ownership of their lands and other properties, and gave the Māori the rights of British subjects)
- Settlers in turn often reacted to Aboriginal resistance with great violence, resulting in numerous indiscriminate massacres by whites of Aboriginal men, women and children.In Tasmania, the “Black War” was fought in the first half of the nineteenth century.
- The Federal government gained the power to make laws with respect to Aborigines following the 1967 referendum.Traditional ownership of land—aboriginal title—was not recognised until 1992, when the High Court overturned the legal doctrine that Australia had been terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) before the European occupation.
- Many settlers occupied land without authority and beyond these authorised settlement limits: they were known as squatters and became the basis of a powerful landowning class. As a result of opposition from the labouring and artisan classes, transportation of convicts to Sydney ended in 1840, although it continued in the smaller colonies of Van Diemen’s Land (first settled in 1803, later renamed Tasmania) and Moreton Bay (founded 1824, and later renamed Queensland) for a few years more.
- A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s and the Eureka Rebellion against mining licence fees in 1854 was an early expression of civil disobedience.
- The first governments established after 1788 were autocratic and each colony was governed by a British Governor, appointed by the British monarch. There was considerable unhappiness with the way some of the colonies were run. In most cases the administration of the early colonies was carried out by the British military. The New South Wales Corps, which was in charge of New South Wales, became known as the “Rum Corps“, due to its stranglehold on the distribution of rum, which was used as a makeshift currency at the time. In New South Wales this led to the “Rum Rebellion”.
- Although English law was transplanted into the Australian colonies by virtue of the doctrine of reception, thus notions of the rights and processes established by the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689 were brought from Britain by the colonists. Agitation for representative government began soon after the settlement of the colonies.
- The oldest legislative body in Australia, the New South Wales Legislative Council, was created in 1825 as an appointed body to advise the Governor of New South Wales. William Wentworth established the Australian Patriotic Association (Australia’s first political party) in 1835 to demand democratic government for New South Wales. The reformist attorney general, John Plunkett, sought to apply Enlightenment principles to governance in the colony, pursuing the establishment of equality before the law, first by extending jury rights to emancipists, then by extending legal protections to convicts, assigned servants and Aborigines. Plunkett twice charged the colonist perpetrators of the Myall Creek massacre of Aborigines with murder, resulting in a conviction and his landmark Church Act of 1836 disestablished the Church of England and established legal equality between Anglicans,Catholics, later Methodists.
- In 1840, the Adelaide City Council and the Sydney City Council were established. Men who possessed 1000 pounds worth of property were able to stand for election and wealthy landowners were permitted up to four votes each in elections.
- Australia’s first parliamentary elections were conducted for the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1843, again with voting rights (for males only) tied to property ownership or financial capacity. Voter rights were extended further in New South Wales in 1850 and elections for legislative councils were held in the colonies of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
- By the mid-19th century, there was a strong desire for representative and responsible government in the colonies of Australia, later fed by the democratic spirit of the gold fields and the ideas of the great reform movements sweeping Europe, the United States and the British Empire. The end of convict transportation accelerated reform in the 1840s and 1850s.
- The Australian Colonies Government Act was a landmark development which granted representative constitutions to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and the colonies enthusiastically set about writing constitutions which produced democratically progressive parliaments – though the constitutions generally maintained the role of the colonial upper houses as representative of social and economic “interests” and all established constitutional monarchies with the British monarch as the symbolic head of state.
- Between 1855 and 1890, the six colonies individually gained responsible government, managing most of their own affairs while remaining part of the British Empire.The Colonial Office in London retained control of some matters, notably foreign affairs,defence,and international shipping.
- On 1 January 1901, federation of the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation and voting.The Commonwealth of Australia was established and it became a dominion of the British Empire in 1907.
- The Federal Capital Territory (later renamed the Australian Capital Territory) was formed in 1911 as the location for the future federal capital of Canberra. The Northern Territory was transferred from the control of the South Australian government to the federal parliament in 1911.
- Britain’s Statute of Westminster 1931 formally ended most of the constitutional links between Australia and the UK. Australia adopted it in 1942,.The shock of the United Kingdom’s defeat in Asia in 1942 and the threat of Japanese invasion caused Australia to turn to the United States as a new ally and protector.
(B) New Zealand:
- New Zealand, still part of the colony of New South Wales, became a separate Colony of New Zealand on 1 July 1841. The colony gained a representative government in 1852 and the 1st New Zealand Parliament met in 1854.
- In 1856 the colony effectively became self-governing, gaining responsibility over all domestic matters other than native policy. (Control over native policy was granted in the mid-1860s.)
- Following concerns that the South Island might form a separate colony, premier Alfred Domett moved a resolution to transfer the capital from Auckland to a locality near the Cook Strait. Wellington was chosen for its harbour and central location, with parliament officially sitting there for the first time in 1865.
- As immigrant numbers increased, conflicts over land led to the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, resulting in the loss and confiscation of much Māori land. (Maori are indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. The Polynesian people consists of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages, a branch of theOceanic languages, and inhabit Polynesia. The native Polynesian people of New Zealand and Hawaii are minorities of their homelands.)
- In 1891 the Liberal Party led by John Ballance came to power as the first organised political party.
- The Liberal Government, later led by Richard Seddon, passed many important social and economic measures. In 1893 New Zealand was the first nation in the world to grant all women the right to vote and in 1894 pioneered the adoption of compulsory arbitration between employers and unions.In 1898 Seddon’s government passed the Old-age Pensions Act of 1898, the first general pensions scheme in the British Empire.
- In 1907, at the request of the New Zealand Parliament, King Edward VII proclaimed New Zealand a dominion within the British Empire, reflecting its self-governing status. Accordingly, the title “Dominion of New Zealand” dates from 1907.
- In 1947 the country adopted the Statute of Westminster, confirming that the British parliament could no longer legislate for New Zealand without the consent of New Zealand.
(C) New Guinea:
- The first European contact with New Guinea was by Portuguese and Spanish sailors in the 16th century.
- A successive European claim occurred in 1828, when the Netherlands formally claimed the western half of the island as Netherlands New Guinea. In 1883, following a short-lived French annexation of New Ireland, the British colony of Queensland annexed south-eastern New Guinea. However, the Queensland government’s superiors in the United Kingdom revoked the claim, and (formally) assumed direct responsibility in 1884, when Germany claimed north-eastern New Guinea as the protectorate of German New Guinea.
- The first Dutch government posts were established in 1898 and in 1902: The German, Dutch and British colonial administrators each attempted to suppress the still-widespread practices of inter-village warfare and head hunting within their respective territories.
- In 1905, the British government transferred some administrative responsibility over southeast New Guinea to Australia (which renamed the area “Territory of Papua“); and, in 1906, transferred all remaining responsibility to Australia.
- During World War I, Australian forces seized German New Guinea, which in 1920 became the Territory of New Guinea, to be administered by Australia under a League of Nations mandate. The territories under Australian administration became collectively known as The Territories of Papua and New Guinea (until February 1942).
- World War II: Netherlands New Guinea and the Australian territories were invaded in 1942 by the Japanese. The Australian territories were put under military administration and were known simply as New Guinea.Papuans often gave vital assistance to the Allies, fighting alongside Australian troops. Approximately 216,000 Japanese, Australian and U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen died during the New Guinea Campaign.
- Since World War II: Following the return to civil administration after WW2, the Australian section was known as the Territory of Papua-New Guinea (1945–49) and then as Papua and New Guinea.
- Although the rest of the Dutch East Indies achieved independence as Indonesia on 27 December 1949, the Netherlands regained control of western New Guinea.
- During the 1950s, the Dutch government began to prepare Netherlands New Guinea for full independence and allowed elections in 1959; the elected New Guinea Council took office on 5 April 1961. The Council decided on the name of West Papua for the territory, along with an emblem, flag, and anthem to complement those of the Netherlands. On 1 October 1962, the Dutch handed over the territory to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority, until 1 May 1963, when Indonesia took control. In 1969, Indonesia, under the 1962 New York Agreement, organised a referendum named the Act of Free Choice, in which Papuan tribal elders reached a consensus to continue the union with Indonesia.
- There has been resistance to Indonesian integration and occupation, both through civil disobedience and via the formation of the Free Papua Movement)in 1965. More than 100,000 Papuans, one-sixth of the population, have died as a result of government-sponsored violence against West Papuans.
- From 1971, the name Papua New Guinea was used for the Australian territory. On 16 September 1975, Australia granted full independence to Papua New Guinea.